READY FOR ROUND TWO
Deprived of playoff hockey for over a week now, the Canucks and their fans are ready to get into the action Thursday night at GM Place.
The team practiced today in preparation of hosting the Chicago Blackhawks, excited to finally get back to playing after sweeping the St. Louis Blues and earning themselves nine days off.
“This layoff was a couple of days here where we were able to heal some minor tweaks and we did a lot of good things with this time,” said head coach Alain Vigneault. “We took some time off, we worked on our conditioning, and the last three days we’ve been getting ready for the start of the series, game-like situations on the ice, working on our specialty teams. We’re ready and [Luongo’s] ready. He’s looking the same way he did during the St. Louis series, there are no issues there.”
The players are prepared for a physical battled and look to play a more disciplined game against the Blackhawks that ice an offensive threatening team.
“I think it’s definitely going to be a physical series no doubt,” said captain Roberto Luongo
. “But at the same time we want to play with that edge but stay within the rules and not get into any penalty trouble. It’s going to be physical just like the last series I think and at the same time we know we have to stay disciplined and not be in the box the whole time.”
With both teams sporting skill, speed and strength, it is likely that goaltending will play a huge role in the outcome of the series.
Blackhawks netminder Nikolai Khabibulin backstopped the young Chicago club to a 4-1 Game 6 win over the Flames, advancing his team to the second round, despite facing 44 shots. In four playoff games this postseason Khabibulin sports an impressive 2.39 goals-against average and .914 save percentage.
In their first round match up against the Blues, the Canucks were lead by the stellar play of Luongo who proved to be extremely frustrating for the talented St. Louis forwards. In the four games he turned away 126 of 131 shots establishing a .962 save percentage and a 1.15 goals-against average.
Luongo expects there will be a lot of traffic and bumping in what is expected to be a physical series, but told reporters it is unlikely to affect his game.
“I’m sure there will be some heavy traffic, a few bumps here and there, but like the last series it’s going to be my job to battle through those things and make sure that even though there is interference you still have to hold your ground and try to make the save,” said Luongo.
“I don’t know what the other team can do to get me off my game. I don’t mind that at all, I actually enjoy it and it gets me going even more. It’s hockey, anything people try to do to get me off my game actually motivates me more.
“We’re playing for one goal and that’s to win the Cup. So this is the second step and we’ve played these guys lately a couple times so we know what to expect and we know their guys. So it’s not hard to get the adrenaline going and get ready to play against a good opposition like that.
The Canucks are not underestimating their opponents, they know they are up against a lot of skill, but the players are confident in their team and what they are capable of.
“We’re confident, you have to be, you have to have a belief in this game,” said Willie Mitchell. “If you don’t believe you can win then there is no sense showing up at the rink. Everything starts with a vision and a belief. We believe we can compete for what it’s all about. If we didn’t have that we’d be a step behind. You’ve got eight teams left, you can’t tell me that the eight teams don’t think they can win the Stanley Cup this year. If they don’t they won’t be in the race very long.
“Us as a group we feel that it’s a good situation. We feel that this group won’t be together again, just in a salary cap world. The salaries worked out, we’ve got a good bunch of players together and we feel it’s an opportunity for us to make a good run. We’ve only had one series so far and we did a pretty good job and we’re looking at another tough one against a young Chicago team that’s been terrific. A terrific team, they did a great job against Calgary so they’re confident too. This time of year everyone is especially if you make it to the next round. So we’re just looking to battle hard with them and see where it goes.” OTHER INFO:
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